COLLEGE STATION – Dr. Ben Wu, a professor in the department of ecosystem science and management at Texas A&M University, is one of two national U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Agriculture Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award recipients for 2018.
Wu received the $5,000 award and a handmade plaque at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“I’m incredibly honored and humbled by being selected for this national award,” Wu said. “It inspires me to grow as a scholar-educator and become more effective in facilitating the learning and development of all of our students.”
Wu’s teaching assignments include a large-enrollment, 400-500 students in two sections, introductory ecology course; an associated honors section in each fall semester; and a graduate course with both in-person and online sections in each spring semester, his nomination states.
He has advised 36 graduate students and served as a committee member for over 100 graduate students.
According to the award nomination, “Dr. Wu’s excellence in teaching is reflected in his exceptional achievements as a scholarly teacher and innovator, a mentor, as well as a leader in advancing our teaching mission, while maintaining a productive disciplinary research program and external grant support.
“Dr. Wu is an exceptionally effective teacher and tireless innovations are a hallmark of his teaching efforts,” the nomination continued. “He has been actively incorporating innovative approaches in his classes to motivate students and enhance their learning, and he closes the loop through frequent and thoughtful assessments, informing the design of next innovations and contributing to scholarship of teaching and learning.”
Wu challenges students and uses active learning approaches to help change the “surface learning” habits of mind, according to the nomination. These include using peer instruction to overcome common misconceptions of key ecological concepts, using alternative questions for the same concept from different angles to help develop conceptual understanding and foster transfer, and using case studies to build relevancy and develop integrative learning skills.
Wu takes a scholarly approach to teaching and engages in scholarship of innovative pedagogies as well, the nomination continued.
He has received 18 education-related grants, totaling over $2.35 million, on innovative pedagogies related to active and blended learning, authentic scientific inquiries by undergraduates, technology-mediated learning, integrating science and education, cross-culture learning, and curricular development and student mentoring at minority serving institutions.
He has published five peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on teaching and learning, in addition to 85 peer-reviewed publications on disciplinary research. He also gave over 30 invited talks in conferences and universities, on educational innovations and their assessments.
Additionally, Wu has conducted over 30 workshops on teaching and learning for faculty and graduate students/postdocs at Texas A&M and other universities and at conferences of professional societies. He has also conducted five intensive workshops with co-facilitators on teaching and learning in the U.S. and internationally.
In addition to his professorial duties, Wu served as the associate dean of faculties and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence for five years and the associate department head for graduate programs for the department for two and a half years. He also has a joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife Research.
Over the years, he has received numerous teaching awards at department, college, university, national and international levels, his nomination stated. Many were extremely competitive with rigorous review processes, and sustained teaching excellence is the minimum requirement for selection.
From Texas A&M he earned the following position titles: Thaman University Professor for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence, 2017-present; John Kincaid University Professor for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence, 2012-2015, and Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence Award, 2009-present.
Other awards include the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M; Distinguished Achievement Awards for Teaching, Association of Former Students of Texas A&M, twice; SEC Faculty Achievement Award, Southeastern Conference Universities; and the Award for Innovative Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Technology, presented at the International Conference on College Teaching and Learning.